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25 Instances When It’s OK not to Tip (Despite Being Asked To)

Tipping is a customary practice ingrained in many cultures, often seen as a token of gratitude for service well-rendered. However, there are specific instances where it is perfectly acceptable to forego this extra payment.

Understanding when and where tipping is optional can save you money and prevent unnecessary expenditures. This guide explores various situations where skipping the tip does not breach etiquette but rather aligns with rational consumer behavior.

Self-Service Restaurants

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At self-service restaurants where you order and pick up your food at a counter, tipping is not typically expected. Customers handle most of the service themselves, from filling drinks to clearing tables. In these environments, the lack of direct service from staff justifies bypassing a tip.

Coffee Shop Baristas

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While tipping at coffee shops is often appreciated, it’s not mandatory, especially if you’re just picking up a simple, quick coffee. The interaction and service level is minimal, typically not extending beyond a basic transaction. Feel free to skip the tip for straightforward orders where no extra service is provided.

Fast Food Chains

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Fast food employees do not generally receive tips as their service model is built for speed and convenience, not personalized service. Tipping here is not customary because the system is designed for quick self-service through counters or drive-thrus. Since the business model doesn’t anticipate gratuities, customers need not feel obliged to offer one.

When Picking Up Takeout

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When you collect takeout, the transaction typically lacks the table service that would usually merit a tip. You’re essentially visiting the establishment to retrieve your own food that you’ve likely ordered and paid for electronically. Since no table service is involved in this exchange, tipping can be omitted.

Ride Shares with No Interaction

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In cases where a ride-share experience involves minimal to no interaction or exceptional service, skipping a tip might feel justified. This can include rides where the driver prefers not to engage or when the service is straightforward without any additional assistance. However, always consider local customs and the nature of the service before deciding.

Automated Services

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For services where machines or technology handle the entirety of the service, like automated car washes or self-service kiosks, tips are unnecessary. Human interaction is minimal or non-existent in these scenarios. Since the service is mechanized, there’s no personal service provided that would typically warrant a tip.

Poor Service

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If the service provided is subpar or if the server is rude, it may be reasonable to withhold a tip. This action should be considered carefully, as everyone can have an off day. Communicating your dissatisfaction through a polite conversation with management may also be appropriate to address any service issues.

When Using Coupons or Gift Cards

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When the service charge or meal cost is significantly reduced by coupons or gift cards, tipping on the original amount is a generous gesture but not mandatory. If the discount means you’re interacting less with the staff or receiving less service, it could influence your decision to tip less or not at all. Consider the level of service provided rather than the final bill amount.

Pre-Paid Travel Packages

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For travel packages that are prepaid, tips are often included in the total price, especially on cruises or guided tours. Always check the terms of your package to see if gratuities are covered. If they are, there’s no need to tip extra unless you encounter exceptional service.

Business Services

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In professional settings, such as visiting a lawyer or a doctor, tipping is not customary. These services are based on fees for professional expertise and advice. Their business model does not typically include tipping as part of the transaction.

Grocery Store Clerks

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Grocery store clerks do not generally receive tips for bagging groceries or helping customers find products. Their job does not traditionally include a service charge, and their employers usually pay them a wage that does not anticipate customer tips. Tipping in this context is not expected and can even be against store policy.

Oil Change and Routine Car Maintenance

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Routine car maintenance such as oil changes or tire rotations at a mechanic’s shop does not typically require a tip. The service fees charged are generally comprehensive, covering labor and expertise. Unless the mechanic goes above and beyond, a tip isn’t necessary.


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On flights, it’s not customary to tip flight attendants. Their role, while service-oriented, is primarily focused on safety and standard cabin service. The airline industry does not include tipping as part of the flight attendants’ compensation structure.

Buffet Restaurants

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At buffet restaurants where you serve yourself and the waiter’s role is limited to clearing tables or bringing drinks, a smaller tip or no tip can be justified. The self-service nature of buffets diminishes the amount of service you receive. Consequently, the expectation for tipping is lower compared to full-service restaurants.

When Service Charges Are Included

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Always review your bill to check if a service charge has already been added, which is common in many European countries. If a service fee is included, additional tipping is not obligatory. This is often the case in upscale restaurants or in regions where hospitality pay is integrated into the service charges.

Sporting Events or Concerts

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At sporting events or concerts, vendors who sell food and drinks typically do not require tips. Their service is transactional and quick, focusing on efficiency rather than personalized service. Here, the customary tipping etiquette does not apply.

Public Transportation

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Public transportation drivers, such as bus or train conductors, do not typically receive tips. Their service is essential but standardized, without the direct, individualized customer service that might warrant a tip. Tipping in this scenario is not expected or required.

Wine Tastings

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At wine tastings, especially those charged with a tasting fee, tipping is not mandatory. The fee generally covers the service and expertise of the staff. Unless the service goes beyond what’s expected, such as providing additional insight or special attention, a tip is not necessary.

Educational Workshops

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Instructors at educational workshops or seminars typically do not receive tips. They are compensated for their expertise and time through the fees you pay to attend. The educational and professional nature of these services does not typically include tipping.

Paid Public Restrooms

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In places where you pay to access a restroom, no additional tip is needed. The fee you pay is intended to cover the maintenance and cleanliness of the facilities. This transaction does not involve personal service that would typically merit an extra gratuity.

Return or Exchange Transactions

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When returning or exchanging items at a store, tipping the staff who assist you is not customary. These transactions are part of the basic customer service that comes with retail. The staff are performing their regular duties for which they are already compensated.

Hotel Housekeeping in Certain Countries

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In some countries, particularly where wages are fair and labor rights are strong, tipping hotel housekeeping staff is not customary. Always check local practices, as this can vary greatly by country and even by hotel policy. If the hotel pays fair wages, the staff are not dependent on tips for their income.

When You’ve Received Complimentary Services

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If a service is offered to you at no charge, such as a complimentary car service at a dealership or a free shoe shine at a hotel, tipping is optional. These services are provided as a courtesy to enhance customer satisfaction. Feel free to offer a tip for exceptional service, but it’s not a requirement.

Technical Support Over the Phone

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When you receive help from technical support over the phone, tipping is not a practice. These specialists provide assistance as part of their job duties, and their compensation does not typically depend on tips. Their support is part of the service your purchase or subscription fee covers.

Library Services

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At libraries, whether you’re getting help finding books or attending a free public lecture, tipping is not appropriate. Staff are salaried employees who help patrons as part of their institutional roles. Libraries are funded to provide free services to the community, making tipping unnecessary.

Josh Dudick

Josh is a financial expert with over 15 years of experience on Wall Street as a senior market strategist and trader. His career has spanned from working on the New York Stock Exchange floor to investment management and portfolio trading at Citibank, Chicago Trading Company, and Flow Traders.

Josh graduated from Cornell University with a degree from the Dyson School of Applied Economics & Management at the SC Johnson College of Business. He has held multiple professional licenses during his career, including FINRA Series 3, 7, 24, 55, Nasdaq OMX, Xetra & Eurex (German), and SIX (Swiss) trading licenses. Josh served as a senior trader and strategist, business partner, and head of futures in his former roles on Wall Street.

Josh's work and authoritative advice have appeared in major publications like Nasdaq, Forbes, The Sun, Yahoo! Finance, CBS News, Fortune, The Street, MSN Money, and Go Banking Rates. Josh currently holds areas of expertise in investing, wealth management, capital markets, taxes, real estate, cryptocurrencies, and personal finance.

Josh currently runs a wealth management business and investment firm. Additionally, he is the founder and CEO of Top Dollar, where he teaches others how to build 6-figure passive income with smart money strategies that he uses professionally.